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Rice Defeats UTEP 68-61 in the Miners Home Finale

UTEP vs. Rice on Senior night (photo by Brandon Cohn)

The UTEP Miners sustained a costly loss on Senior night at the Don Haskins Center on Wednesday night.  It was a disappointing end to the Miners home schedule, as Rice swept the season series by winning 68-61.  The Miners had a solid performance by senior Gabe McCulley, who shined in his last home game as a Miner, scoring 17.  John Bohannon added 13 points in the losing effort.  

Rice hadn’t won in El Paso since 2003.  The Owls were stellar at the line making 19 of 22 free throws.  Miner fans were probably scratching their heads wondering why Coach Floyd went with such an unorthodox starting lineup that included walk-ons Tyler Tafoya, and Mauricio Cheda.  Floyd went with this particular lineup for almost the first 6 minutes of the game. 

When asked about his decision to start Tafoya and Cheda Coach Floyd mentioned,

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With a little more than 5 minutes to go in the game, UTEP was making a run.  They were down 50-45 when Jacques Streeter stole the ball and was heading towards an easy basket, but was called for traveling.  It was a horrible call, and was quite clear that Streeter was fowled on the play.  Coach Floyd was irate because of the call and subsequently was assessed 2 quick technical fowls and ejected from the contest. 

When Coach Floyd was asked about his technical fowls and ejection he had this to say,

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The loss to Rice was a costly one for the Miners because it affected their seeding in the C-USA Tournament in Memphis next week.  The Miners went from being seeded no worse than 7th, to the 8th seed.  They will take on 9th seeded  Houston in first round of the C-USA Tournament.  To add insult to injury, if the Miners win, they will have to face the number one seed in the tournament in the quarterfinal round.  The number 1 seed will either be Southern Miss or Memphis.

When I asked Coach Floyd about having to potentially face the number 1 seed in the second round of the C-USA Tournament he said,

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UTEP finishes the regular season on Saturday at SMU.  It has been an inconsistent season for these young Miners to say the least as they fall to 14-15 with the loss.  The best thing about college basketball is despite your regular season record, winning your conference tournament punches your ticket to the big dance.  The Miners have proven that they can play with the best by defeating both Southern Miss and Memphis.  The big question is can they do it in a pressured situation with everything on the line?  We shall see.

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